Portrait of an Integrated Research and Extension Project: RiverSmart
Supporting Flood Prevention and Remediation in New England
Two faculty members in the Geosciences department are integrating research and extension outreach to enable communities to limit future damage from flooding. Christine Hatch, Extension Assistant Professor, and Eve Vogel, Assistant Professor, are lead investigators in a fascinating project that could have far-reaching impacts on rivers throughout New England. They bring their expertise to this three-year effort, supported by an “IRE” – integrated-research-and-extension -- grant from the Center for Agriculture, on a wide variety of issues related to rivers, geological formations and the identification of institutional challenges.
The problem being addressed is that New England residents, landowners, infrastructure and businesses located along rivers or in river valleys are frequently impacted by damaging floods. Regionally, area residents are still struggling with the impact of devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Irene along the Deerfield River in July, 2011. When working to mitigate problematic conditions that could result in flooding problems, New England has unique challenges to making proactive changes. Two of the reasons for this are: a lack of fluvial-geomorphological knowledge and understanding in this region; and greater jurisdictional fragmentation here, rooted in the region’s tradition of “home rule” in which towns, as well as states and federal agencies, have authority over land use.
The approach Vogel and Hatch are utilizing in the RiverSmart project will address these issues on several fronts simultaneously. First, scientific investigations will link fluvial geomorphology to New England-specific factors to develop, codify and evaluate best management practices for flood prevention and post-flood restoration. Second, institutional investigation will uncover challenges and constraints caused by distinct jurisdictional and institutional fragmentation. Third, extension work will synthesize this much-needed scientific and institutional knowledge into a series of products and disseminate it among towns, government officials, landowners, businesses, environmental organizations, road crews, and others. Recently, two inter-related grants were awarded to extend their vital work to protect New England’s rivers. (See grants section of this newsletter).